with the People of Pakistan
By Muhammad Salim Akhtar
Washington, DC: If, in the context of
struggle for democracy in Pakistan, the most important document
produced so far is the Charter of Democracy, initially
penned by the leaders of PML-N and PPP and later signed
by most of the opposition parties, then the most noteworthy
document produced by Pakistani-Americans to date is the
“Pakistani-American Contract with the People of
Pakistan” put together by nine grassroots organizations
under the banner of their US-wide coalition, the Pakistan
American National Alliance (PANA).
As stated in the preamble, PANA has created this contract
“to share our vision based on our learning and experiences
in relatively advanced democracy. The PANA Contract comprises
of three parts: a) Charter of Pakistani-American Obligations,
b) Support for structural, procedural and constitutional
changes recommended by Pakistani political parties, and
c) Code of Conduct for Pakistani political parties.
Here is a summary of the Contract:
Charter of Pakistani American Obligations: While
each individual has the democratic right to disagree with,
disapprove or criticize this or that government, political
party or ideology, or trend in Pakistan, this charter is
based on the firm conviction that each Pakistani-American
bears a personal responsibility for helping improve life
conditions in Pakistan. These obligations include but are
by no means limited to poverty alleviation, education, healthcare,
economy and infra-structural development at one level, and
human rights, minority rights, gender equality, democracy,
rule of law, transparency, accountability, good governance,
institution building, and peace with justice, at another.
Structural and Constitutional Changes:
We, therefore, join the Pakistani civil society in demanding:
Supremacy of the Constitution: As the first
step, the 1973 Constitution as on 12th October 1999 before
the military coup shall be restored with the provisions
of joint electorates, minorities, and women’s reserved
seats on closed party list in the Parliament, the lowering
of the voting age, and the increase in seats in parliament
and the legal Framework Order, 2000 and the Seventeenth
Constitutional Amendment shall be repealed accordingly.
Independent Judiciary: In order to maintain
independence of judiciary, a Judicial Commission consisting
of members of the Judiciary, the Bar, the government and
the opposition should be constituted for the appointment
of judges of the superior courts. The tenure of office of
the judges should be seventy years. They should not be given
any other office during service or after retirement.
Free Media: To ensure complete freedom
of the print and electronic media, we call for a) that the
Pakistan government should abolish all coercive mechanisms
of direct and indirect censorship, b) end media manipulation
by various intelligence organizations, c) set up an objective,
legally actionable, criteria for the allocation of government
advertisement funds, and d) institute Freedom of Information
laws, including laws requiring open meetings by all government
Autonomous Election Commission: Formation
and working of an independent, autonomous, and impartial
Election Commission should be enshrined and guaranteed through
a constitutional amendment. The said amendment should make
the Election Commission entirely immune from pressures or
manipulation by the establishment or the opposition.
State and the Civil Society: The military
must be fully subordinated to civil authority and completely
excluded from governance.
There should be complete ban over appointment of serving
or retired members of the armed forces for any civil post.
The overthrowing of elected government should be declared
a crime – a capital offense - under Article 6 of the
Constitution of Pakistan.
The National Security Council should be abolished and the
political wings of all intelligence agencies should be disbanded.
Code of Conduct for the Political Parties:
Civilian rule preceding Gen Musharraf’s coup has left
behind an unfortunate legacy of distrust based on impressions
of debilitating incompetence, gross negligence and massive
corruption. It remains the primary responsibility of major
electoral parties to acknowledge, fix and prevent these
problems with aim of healing the political society. Political
parties must institute formal systems to purge themselves
of their outlaw members and officers.
We hold all political parties, the two major parties in
particular, accountable in terms of their public commitment
to the people of Pakistan stipulated in Article 22 of the
Charter of Democracy: “We shall not join
a military regime or any military sponsored government.”
We also hold accountable for their commitment that “No
party shall solicit the support of military to come into
power or to dislodge a democratic government.”
We demand that all parties should institute regular internal
elections. Party nominees (candidates) for federal and state
elections must be chosen by rank and file members in Primary
Elections organized by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
These election must be based on Election Commission-verified
and not make-believe membership rosters.